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TL;DR

Many users leave misguiding comments on off-topic questions that they consider on-topic on another site. To battle this, allow users to select all sites in the migration dialogue, but instead of migrating, leave a constructive canned comment and flag for moderator attention, if the question has answers.

Actual proposal

Change the dialogue for Close → Off-Topic → Migration and Flagging → Closing → Off-Topic → Migration as follows:

  • Below the existing targets, show a search field that allows the asker to select every site in the network – similarly to what is shown to moderators right now (looking like this). Implement this proposal and show the target audience of the selected site.

  • If the question does not have any answers¹, create a canned comment like this (taking a migration from German Language to Academia as an example):

    I’m voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about the German language. It may be on-topic on Academia SE. Before you ask there, please read their guidelines.

    Have the vote count as a normal close vote, but do not initiate a migration or raise an automatic flag.

  • If the question has answers¹, raise a moderator-attention flag and leave a comment:

    I’m voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about the German language. Your question has flagged for migration to Academia SE, where it may be on-topic. Please wait and do not repost it.

¹ Negatively scoring answers can be excluded from this.

Rationales

  • A frequent source of trouble and frustration for new users is if they ask a question that is off-topic on one site and are recommended to ask it on another site where is not on-topic either. Moreover, even if their question is on-topic, many of those questions would benefit from the asker reading the respective site’s guidelines (and Stack Exchange’s guidelines on asking questions in general) and amending their question accordingly.

    Thus many comments recommending another site could be improved by being more moderate in their claims what is on-topic on other sites and linking help pages, which can allow the asker to decide upon the on-topicness or to improve their question before reposting it. The suggested dialogue facilitates such comments.

  • Many users are confused whether to recommend migration or reposting with off-topic question that are on-topic elsewhere. Having the system help them make this decision for them, alleviates this. Moreover, this way, moderators only have to deal with migrations that have some benefit, i.e., keeping a possibly valuable answer.

  • Showing users the actual scope of some migration targets may prevent some wrong migration suggestions (see here for more arguments).

  • Users who already post helpful comments on such off-topic questions are spared some typing work. For example on Academia, which gets a lot of off-topic questions that may belong on some science or programming sites, I type comments as suggested above for questions without answers on a daily basis.

  • As no migration is initiated if the question has no answer, more often the asker is responsible for reposting it. Thus questions from askers who cannot be bothered to care about their question are less likely to end up on another site. As such askers also do not tend to put much effort in their questions, this might considerably reduce the problem of crap being migrated.

  • While some users will continue to give bad migration advice, their numbers should at least not increase.

  • 1
    Similar proposal: Better “Flag for migration” interface. I will mention that seeing the feed of "this may belong on Programmers.SE" that comes on a fairly regular basis from SO, rarely are those good bits of advice, and even more rarely is it a good question to migrate in the first place. – user213963 Jan 23 '16 at 18:34
  • @MichaelT: I will mention that seeing the feed of "this may belong on Programmers.SE" that comes on a fairly regular basis from SO, rarely are those good bits of advice, and even more rarely is it a good question to migrate in the first place. – I am not sure whether you are arguing for or against me here, but one of the goals of my proposal is to alleviate the effect of such bad advice and reduce the number of bad migrations. – Wrzlprmft Jan 23 '16 at 19:18
  • Unless the question and answer are of very great quality, we rarely ever migrate already-answered questions. An unanswered question probably stands higher chance of being migrated. Your flag raising proposal seems to be backwards, and would result in a lot of ignored flags (though, raising them in the opposite direction would still result in a lot of ignored flags). Raising any auto-flags would likely just be noise here. – animuson Jan 24 '16 at 5:41
  • @animuson: This does not reflect what I pick up in the TL and what I see migrated. But I admit that I may be wrong for sites where I am not that active. Anyway, why not get rid of migration altogether in that case? Is it really worth the effort for unanswered questions? – Wrzlprmft Jan 24 '16 at 7:13
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    @animuson That's backwards. One of the only motivations for migrating is to preserve existing answers. Otherwise, we can just delete and repost. (That's assuming that the post is good quality — but the Don't Migrate Crap rule covers that already.) – 200_success Mar 8 '16 at 20:08
  • 2
    @200_success No, it's not. Your only motivation for migrating a question should be getting the question in front of the people who can actually provide an answer. If it's already answered, then migration is just throwing something in front of people that doesn't actually need any more attention. Preserving excellent content via migration is an exception, not a main reason for using it. – animuson Mar 8 '16 at 20:15
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    @animuson If a question is off-topic, we're going to close it. That's a dead question, and it's not open to receiving better answers. That's not healthy. By your logic, anyone should be able to ask any question anywhere in hopes of getting an answer, and we shouldn't even have off-topic closures. – 200_success Mar 8 '16 at 20:21
  • @200_success How did you get that from my comment? If it's off-topic and answered, just close it. If you don't want to lose very valuable information, then feel free to migrate it. But if it's just some average question that happened to get an answer, you shouldn't feel any need or obligation to migrate that question just "because it has an answer." Just let it get closed and deleted and be done with it. – animuson Mar 8 '16 at 20:26
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    @animuson I thought that a main advantage of Stack Exchange over traditional bulletin-board forums was that posts can always be improved and kept fresh through editing and new answers. There is no "be done with it". (And, to reiterate, the Don't Migrate Crap rule already prohibits migration of low-quality posts.) – 200_success Mar 8 '16 at 20:30
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    @animuson: So, if migrations are just to get questions in front of people who can provide an answer, why have them in the first place? If the asker actually cares about their question, nothing is keeping them from reposting the question on the proper site. – Wrzlprmft Mar 8 '16 at 20:31
  • 1
    I like the idea of the canned comments to guide people to other relevant sites, but we should decouple closure and migration. Too often I see migration proposals for questions that are on-topic where they are, but somebody thinks they'd be better on another site. Migration should only be considered after a question has been closed. – Monica Cellio Apr 3 '16 at 3:53
  • @MonicaCellio: This is why I phrased the respective canned comments as I did – but I admit that this may not be enough. Anyway, one could adapt the proposed system to account for that by only autoflagging when the question is closed and adapting the canned comment respectively. You might want to turn this into an answer. – Wrzlprmft Apr 3 '16 at 5:55
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+50

I like this, with a couple "concurrent modifications" (things we ought to do together).

First, migration should stop being a close-time option. Too often people propose migrating a question that's on-topic where it is; they just think it might do better elsewhere. Migration shouldn't be an available option for questions that are open; instead, it should become available after the question is on hold or closed, via a link in the close notice:

new option in close notice

At that point, we could follow this suggestion, making all sites with audiences available, and showing the on-topic details for a selected site. (The latter link predates the idea of decoupling migration from closure, so ignore that aspect of the suggestion there.)

migration dialogue

(Actually, go ahead and add the whole on-topic page in a scrollable window, like we do for duplicate candidates. That was harder to mock up in PaintBrush.)

Proposing a migration target would add a canned comment (if not present already) like the following:

I'm voting to migrate your question to Android.SE, where it may be on-topic. Please wait and do not repost it.

(I'm not sure whether migration should be automatic if enough people propose it or always flagged for moderator attention. While we obviously need to decide that, I think it's orthogonal to this proposal about canned comments.)

  • I am generally in favour of de-coupling closure and migration, but this proposal has the drawback that it requires experienced users to go back to the question after it was closed. So, I’d rather suggest that you have a close dialogue without migration options and after a vote to close a question as off-topic has been cast, the user is prompted along the lines of: “You voted to close this question as off-topic. Do you think that it would be on-topic on another site in the Stack Exchange network? If yes, please select: […]” – Wrzlprmft Apr 3 '16 at 18:43
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    @Wrzlprmft that's a good point; we could collect the migration votes at close-vote time and just not act on them until the question is closed. What I want to avoid is one migration vote (with visible artifact) causing trouble in the case where the question actually is on-topic where it is. So it should be closed first, and a migration vote shouldn't be available before an explicit off-topic vote. – Monica Cellio Apr 3 '16 at 19:01

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